Thursday, July 1, 2010

Homemade yogurt

In recent times, yogurt has become a part of the mainstream American diet . Long before Western nutritionists started raving about the probiotic affects of yogurt, it was a staple diet for many ancient cultures. It is a source of protein for many vegetarian Indians. I for one can never end my meal without a bowl of homemade natural yogurt. 

Yogurt is called curd in India. Yogurt-making is a common practice throughout India over the centuries. As I remember when I was growing up, a farmer’s day in the village begins with milking the buffalos and boiling the milk in a large terra-cotta pot over a wood burning stove. It was a tradition to use only terra-cotta pots to boil the milk and to set the yogurt. Not only does yogurt taste better from terra-cotta pots, it was a belief that yogurt from terra-cotta containers have a cooling effect on the body. Because the weather is always tropical in southern India, it is an ideal temperature to set the yogurt.

Then, my mother would churn the yogurt from the previous night to extract the butter. When you remove butter, the leftover liquid is called butter milk. Buttermilk has all the benefits of the yogurt except the fat, and can be enjoyed as a refreshing drink throughout the day or can be served as part of the meal. Butter was melted into the ghee to use in curries or to make sweets. What we used to do is simply mix rice with any curry and drizzle some melted ghee on top to give extra -rich buttery taste to any dish. In the cholesterol-conscious world, we are moving away from that practice.

I do continue my mother’s tradition by making yogurt every morning in America. Homemade yogurt is not only easy to make but is also free of any preservatives associated with store-bought yogurt. You can make yogurt with any kind of milk such as whole milk, 2 percent, 1 percent and even with non-fat. Higher milk fat content translates to creamier yogurt.
Yogurt is eaten with every meal in India. It acts as a tenderizer in marinades, that is cooked with curries and it thickens the gravies. The health benefit of eating yogurt every day surpasses any vitamin pills.

Yield 4 cups
• 4 cupsmilk
• ¼ cup natural yogurt or from previous batch

Bring milk to boil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium high heat. Keep an eye to prevent from milk from boiling over. Transfer milk to the ceramic, terra-cotta, or stainless steel container. Let the milk cool to 115ºF -120ºF and stir in yogurt. Cover tightly with plastic wrap first and then with the lid. If you live in colder climate, wrap the pot with any old sweater to insulate the pot to maintain the ideal temperature to set the yogurt. Let the milk rest for 3 - 4 hrs undisturbed. Check to see weather yogurt is set. Once yogurt is set, you might notice some watery liquid on top of the yogurt, which is normal. Refrigerate until ready to use. The yogurt will remain fresh for 3 - 5 days.

For more memorable centerpieces, tablescapes, and recipes (including gluten free recipes), please check out my book, Entertaining From an Ethnic Indian Kitchen, at my website

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  1. Thank you so much for this recipe. I have always wondered about making yogurt but thought I would need a yogurt-maker like my step mom had when I was growing up. Thank you so much!!! I hope you will consider linking this up at my blog too. :)
    Melodie @ Breastfeeding Moms Unite!

  2. I'll bet this is so tangy and good.

  3. I'm very sure the homemade version is way tastier than storebought! I wonder if the greek yogurt available in stores now would make a good starter?

  4. Suzy,
    Yes. Greek yogurt works as starter. Try it. Good luck.